March 28, 2023

President Biden spoke with the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols on Friday afternoon, the White House said. 

The call took place hours before Memphis officials were expected to release police body camera video of the violent arrest that led to the Black man’s death.

During the call with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, Mr. Biden gave condolences from him and the first lady, the White House said. 

“During the conversation, the President commended the family’s courage and strength,” according to a statement.

As the president was leaving the White House for Camp David on Friday evening, he told reporters he would urge Congress to pass federal police reforms known as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Mr. Biden is expected to deliver his State of the Union address before Congress next month.

“We should get this under control,” Mr. Biden said.

The president said he spoke with RowVaughn Wells for 10 to 15 minutes, and was pleased she called for any protests sparked by the release of the police footage to be peaceful.

“She’s obviously in enormous pain,” Mr. Biden said. “… I told her I had some idea of what that loss was like, and that although it’s impossible to believe now, but a time will come when his memory brings a smile before a tear.”

Mr. Biden’s first wife and their daughter died in a car crash in 1972, and his son Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.

Earlier Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Mr. Biden had been briefed on the video footage, but hasn’t seen it. Nichols’ family and authorities have described the incident as a brutal encounter, and five fired Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder in the case.

At the Justice Department, FBI Director Christopher Wray told reporters he has seen the footage.

“What happened in Memphis is obviously tragic,” Wray said. “I have seen the video myself, and I will tell you, I was appalled. I’m struggling to find a stronger word, but I will just tell you I was appalled.”

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